CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Though the calendar and history books will reflect that Kansas actually beat Indiana 83-65 on the first day of spring, the seeds of the win were probably sown last October.
That's when Hoosiers mentor Bobby Knight invited Roy Williams, the third-year coach at Kansas, to come to Bloomington and watch his team practice.
The invitation had actually been extended a season before, but Williams, a longtime assistant to North Carolina coach Dean Smith, was just able this year to go to the Indiana campus.
"I have so much respect for him and what he's done," said Williams. "I just wanted to get an idea of their screening concepts and pick up some things that they do on defense.
"If I go recruiting and I see something interesting, I'm going to watch practice and pick something up."
Just what exactly he picked up at Indiana isn't clear, since Williams wouldn't divulge what he saw.
But he must have seen enough to formulate a pretty good game plan, one that will send his Jayhawks (25-7) to the Southeast Regional championship game tomorrow against Arkansas.
Of course, a team hitting six of its first eight three-point attempts makes any game plan look good. Led by guard Terry Brown, who hit for 18 of his 23 points before intermission, Kansas jumped out to a 26-6 lead before Indiana (29-5) knew what had happened.
"They came out and hit a lot of shots and played really well, and we put ourselves in a bad position from the start," said Indiana center Eric Anderson.
Knight agreed, and cited Williams' preparation as a reason. "Kansas played very well, and it was obvious that they were prepared well going in," he said. "From a coaching standpoint, I like to see a team play that way.
"We were much too tentative. Kansas, on the other hand, was assertive and aggressive. And aggressiveness becomes a compatriot of confidence. It wasn't two teams going at each other. It was one team going at the other."
Ever so slowly, the Hoosiers tried to climb back into the game, and pulled to within 11 and had the chance to cut it to nine when super soph Calbert Cheaney went to the line to shoot a one-and-one with 6:43 left in the first half.
Cheaney missed the front end, and the Jayhawks ran off three baskets in 45 seconds. Knight called that one of the game's key moments, and Kansas went on to lead 49-27 at halftime.
Into the breach for the second half came Indiana freshman Damon Bailey. The 6-foot-3 guard, who has been the subject of gushing praise from reporters and coaches nationwide, did his level best to pull the Hoosiers back into the contest.
Bailey hit two three-pointers in the first two minutes of the half, passed and went strong to the boards, finishing with 20 points and five rebounds.
"I think he's a better athlete than people give him credit for," said Williams. "Tonight was the first time that I thought, 'Dadgum it, the little bugger's going to take over the game.' " But Bailey couldn't do it by himself, and his teammates, especially Cheaney, who had just six of his 23 points in the second half, were of little assistance.
When Kansas guard Adonis Jordan drained a three-pointer to widen the gap to 17, after the Hoosiers had worked the margin down to 14 with 8:42 left and Anderson missed a turnaround jumper on the baseline, Knight said he knew it was over.
"We got beat right where we ought to have been beat," said Knight. "We're not a Final Four team. There have to be four teams in the country better than we are. I know we saw one tonight."
After Saturday's regional title game, the Jayhawks, who shared the Big Eight regular-season championship with Oklahoma State amidst gloomier forecasts, may well find themselves in that hallowed quartet, playing, oddly enough, in Indianapolis, just down the interstate from Assembly Hall, where it may have all began.